While the legislature debates whether to cut taxes on oil companies, state lawmakers were in Washington, D.C last week– meeting with oil and gas lobbyists.
It was a meeting of The Energy Council – a group consisting of Alaska, ten other states, four Canadian provinces, and the Venezuelan government.
Neither The Energy Council nor its affiliated nonprofit CLEER has a website. They’re headquartered at the same address in Dallas, Texas. And The Energy Council’s filings with the government list its mission as serving as a forum for governmental entities to discuss energy and environmental policy issues.
That was on full display Friday morning at the elegant Washington Court Hotel.
Kansas State Senator Carolyn McGinn kicked off the conference by thanking the sponsors.
“Today’s luncheon is sponsored by a longtime friend of The Energy Council, Mr. Mike McGarey of the Nuclear Energy Institute,” McGinn says.
McGinn went on.
“Tomorrow’s breakfast will be hosted by Sara Tays of Exxon Oil.”
And she continued.
“For a number of years, Paul Quesnel of BP Alaska as the primary sponsor for each and every CLEER University Advisory Board Seminar. This meeting is no exception, and I’d like to ask Paul to stand so that we may thank him for his continuing generosity. Thank you Paul, and thank you BP.”
Also on the list of attendees: Bill Brackin, ExxonMobil’s lobbyist in Alaska. Portia Babcock, ConocoPhillips’s chief lobbyist in Alaska. Michelle Egan with the Aleyeska Pipeline Service Company. Nikki Martin from the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. Rick Rogers, the executive Director of the Resource Development Council for Alaska.
The list goes on and includes about twenty members of the legislature. Some brought spouses, others brought staffers.
The Energy Council chairman is Sitka Republican Bert Stedman.
Senator Stedman had the honor of introducing Billy Tauzin. Tauzin, a democrat turned republican, is also a congressman turned DC lobbyist.
Stedman told the crowd, there’s something to learn from Tauzin’s career.
“As a Democrat he didn’t have Republican opposition. Then he swapped to the Republicans and didn’t have Democratic opposition. So we should all aspire to those goals, getting elected and not having opposition.”
Tauzin regaled the attendees, who were busy eating plates of bacon and eggs, with stories of a different Washington – of a Washington where opposing lawmakers would come together to work on energy, or to fix the tax code.
He’s lobbying to protect certain federal tax provisions for oil producers:
“But as long as we have it, the provisions in the tax code that are critical to the production of energy in this country, and to strip them out to save a few billion dollars in a sixteen trillion dollar deficit situation, makes little sense to me.”
Some lawmakers have proposed cutting two to four billion dollars in tax credits to the oil industry as a way to offset spending.
‘There’s one particular provision in the code I’m trying to preserve, which affects ConocoPhillips Alaska, which is a sponsor of this meeting today. It’s called dual capacity.’
Tauzin says that provision prevents U.S. based oil companies from double taxation on foreign earned money – meaning if they bring the money back to the US, they won’t be taxed on it.
“More and more of our companies are seeing their revenue from foreign sales,” Tauzin says.
Tauzin is lobbying to protect federal interests.
But the lobbyists in from Alaska will have plenty of time to make the lower-taxes pitch to state lawmakers this weekend.